“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” cast members Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who plays Queen Regent Miriel; Ismael Cruz Córdova, the warrior elf Arondir; and Sophia Nomvete, Princess Disa, who is the first Black female dwarf in Middle-earth, made the trek Sunday to Lucca Comics & Games, the unique event dedicated to pop culture, cosplay and comics held in the medieval Tuscan town of Lucca.
In an interview with Variety, the three actors of color spoke about the racist backlash to their casting as major characters on the Prime Video show.
“There’s been a little bit of apology, a little bit of silence, but there’s been an undeniable shift,” said Nomvete.
Read below for the full conversation.
How does it feel to be at this large Comic-Con like event in a medieval Tuscan town with thousands of cosplayers in the streets?
Cynthia Addai-Robinson: I’m excited when I see the level of creativity and passion. All these different films, television shows, books, comic books and manga. Just the time that people take to literally craft these costumes from what they have at home! It brings you back to something very innocent and pure and non-judgmental. When people come to these events it’s about finding their community. Feeling a little less alone, a little less weird. Since what we are doing can be challenging sometimes, it’s a good reminder of why we are doing what we are doing — to be part of this larger storytelling environment.
Sophia Nomvete: The one thing I’ll add to that is that the difference here is that usually you’re in a space where there is a section of the city which is the convention. In Lucca, the entire city becomes the convention.
Ismael Cruz Córdova: I’m very appreciative to whoever created this, that they’ve created a safe space for difference. That’s very important to me.
Speaking of which, the inclusion of people of color in the cast of “The Rings of Power” sparked racist backlash online. A few weeks later, do you feel that the conversation about this aspect has subsided a bit?
Cruz: The fact that the attention was shifted toward that shows you what the power of shows like this is. The fact that it hit that nerve, and that our being in it created such as response, just brings attention to the greatness of fantasy, the greatness of “Lord of the Rings” and why it’s actually good that we are here. Did it become a bit too much? Absolutely! It’s taken air time from the depth of who we are as artists. But it just shows you where we are in the world and how much work we still have to do. I’m just very grateful that it’s us who are able to recalibrate, break form, reshape and make history.
Addai-Robinson: In order to not have such an impact, the pendulum has to swing. We are right in the middle of that process. We just want to normalize. We do have to discuss it, because we are now in a space in society where need to – now and again – acknowledge exactly what is happening. That level of distraction or aggression that was put towards us – it’s been a painful journey to get there – but it has elevated us. It has put us in a position where there will be a plaque one day when the pendulum has swung to where it needs to be. We will have badges upon the people who fought the great fight in order to get to a point to where there isn’t such an eruption based solely on that, when a casting announcement comes. While it’s been a challenge, it has been a phenomenal moment to be a part of. Doors are open and accessibility is available for absolutely everyone to feel safe within a franchise and a story of this scale. It’s been really important and empowering. Tears have been shed, blood has been spilled – metaphorically – but we are here.
Nomvete: To answer your question, we still get a ton of controversy, but there has been a shift. You know what there has been? It feels like there has been a sit-down. It feels like we had to prove ourselves, almost. We had to defend ourselves. But it’s undeniable that these people are in the position that they are in deserve to be there and should be there. There is nobody else that could have played the role. I genuinely feel that there has been a shut down. I’ve even had apologies, which I love, even if it were just one person acknowledging that that frame of mind was wrong.
Cruz: At the beginning there was a lot of: “Tell us what you do.” The show wasn’t out. Now the characters are living in their own right. We’ve created these characters that, with the help of an entire team, live on their own and have their own impact. And as the conversation and the noise continues outside, these characters are undeniable. We’ve felt a lot of love.
Addai-Robinson: I’ve been pretty adamant, just on a personal level, that I was never going to let the controversy define the role or define the experience. There is a certain amount of tuning out that you have to do when people are attempting to get to you. I had to try as best I could to take control of this experience for myself. It’s bigger than me; it’s bigger than us. You can have your personal reasons for being a part of something, then it sort of extends beyond. People will take from it what they take. But at this point we feel quite free and happy to just talk about the story and the characters.